09/16/2007 11:00PM

Sierra Sunset romps to keep partners on a roll

EmailSAN MATEO, Calif. - Two-year-olds took leading roles again at Bay Meadows last week.

The Jeff Bonde-trained Sierra Sunset put everything together in an eight-length victory in the $72,310 Bay Meadows Juvenile for his first stakes win Saturday.

His victory, combined with stablemate Run Brother Ron's win in the Beau Brummel at Fairplex last week, made a good week for the partnership of Phil Lebherz, Al Mariani, George Schmitt, and Carol Wirth. Lebherz and Schmitt are also owners of Run Brother Ron.

Sierra Sunset was coming off a third-place finish in a $40,000 optional claimer here on Aug. 24.

"He shipped over from Pleasanton the morning of his last start," Bonde said. "He lugged in the whole way, but we couldn't find a clinical reason for it.

"I don't know if he's a poor shipper, but we left him here, and he's been training here."

Sierra Sunset has always been highly regarded and is learning to rate better. He was ridden by Carlos Silva after the barn's top jockey, Roberto Gonzalez, who had ridden him previously and was aboard Run Brother Ron, rode his stablemate Orientate Me.

"Bobby wasn't happy with the way he ran last time, so sometimes it's better to go with someone new," Bonde said.

Orientate Me had an eventful trip, checking behind eventual runner-up Fort Funston on the turn before finishing fourth.

"I'm a little unhappy because I thought my other horse got stood on his head on the turn," Bonde said, "but the stewards didn't agree with Mr. Gonzalez. I thought we could run one-two."

Silva was impressed with Sierra Sunset.

"I worked him the other day, and he worked good, but this looked like a tough spot," Silva said. "I waited until the three-eighths, and when I asked him, he took off. He really surprised me. He ran huge."

Bonde said he was considering the seven-furlong Cavonnier on Oct. 8 during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita for Sierra Sunset and the six-furlong Harvest Futurity on Oct. 12 at Fresno for Run Brother Ron.

High Resolve impresses in debut

Trainer Greg Gilchrist had to settle for second in the Juvenile with even-money Fort Funston, but he and owner Harry Aleo had plenty reason to smile Friday after High Resolve's nine-length victory in her debut.

Fort Funston dueled with Thundering Justice for the lead and did pull clear from that one in the stretch but was nowhere close to Sierra Sunset.

"The best horse won," Gilchrist said. "There are no moral victories in racing. That's the horse that scared me the most."

High Resolve's victory over a field that included $400,000 stablemate Sky Mystic didn't surprise Gilchrist, either.

"She was ready to run at Santa Rosa but had a little temperature," Gilchrist said. "She showed me in the morning she can run. She has a lot of talent and is very quick. Nothing in that race surprised me.

"Sky Mystic isn't the kind who wants to be pushed on for 5 1/2 furlongs. We look at her more as a grass type going longer."

Bay Meadows Handicap shaping up

The three highweights among 19 nominees for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap - Bold Chieftain (120), Jack's Wild (119), and Now Victory (119) - are planning to run in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Bold Chieftain is coming off a win in the Aug. 3 California Dreamin' at Del Mar, while Jack's Wild was first and Now Victory third in the California Turf Championship here on Aug. 25.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer plans to run Shining Day and probably Heatseeker, both of whom get in at 114.

Southern California-based trainers Neil Drysdale, Mike Machowsky, and Bobby Frankel have indicated they will have entrants. Drysdale nominated Corey County and stakes-placed Macduff. Machowsky nominated Rush Rush and stakes-placed Zann. Frankel's nominees were graded-stakes-placed Chattahoochee War, New Export, and Porfido, a multiple graded winner in his native Chile.

Baze back from suspension

Russell Baze returns from his 15-day suspension Wednesday and will ride the first seven races. He was off to a sensational start, with 17 wins from 53 mounts (32 percent). His on-the-board percentage was an astounding 73.6 percent, with 17 wins, 14 seconds, and 8 thirds.

He returns and finds himself in a three-way tie for the jockey standings lead with David Lopez and Alex Bisono. Lopez, however, will sit out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after being disqualified from first to second for causing interference in the stretch aboard Band of Thunder in last Thursday's first race.

Baze, Laffit Pincay Jr., and Pat Day, the three winningest living North American riders, will be at Bay Meadows on Sunday, Sept. 30, and will go to dinner with a lucky bidder and nine friends that night at the Van's Restaurant in Belmont.

The three, who have combined for more than 28,000 victories, are joining together to benefit the Northern California Race Track Chaplaincy of America. The three Hall of Fame riders have accounted for 24 national riding titles, 13 Triple Crown wins, 19 Breeders' Cup victories, and 11 Eclipse Awards.

Bidding for the dinner, which started at $500, is being conducted on eBay and will continue until midnight Sunday. Bids are for dinner for 10 with the three riders.

Additional information is available by calling the RTCA national office at (310) 419-1640.

Meier family pride

Trainer Monty Meier was celebrating at Bay Meadows on Sunday after his brother, Randall, scored his 4,000th career victory earlier in the day at Arlington Park.

"Thirty years and three days ago, we finished in a dead heat for first in a race at Columbus, Nebraska," he said. "We were the first brothers in nearly 25 years to finish in a dead heat since Wayne and Dwayne Murty did it [also at Columbus in 1953]. I think we may be the last brothers to do it."

* Silva was handed a five-day suspension that begins Friday for his ride aboard Best Tribute in last Thursday's seventh race, when he caused interference at the quarter pole.